Circle of Inspiration

Yesterday morning I completed another 5k, the She Power 5k.

20190128_152212_hdr copyI had signed up for this 5k back in July 2018.  A while ago.  I had done this race in February and loved the race and the medal, so I knew I wanted to do it again.  And the medal this year was beautiful!  Who doesn’t want the bling from a race, isn’t that why we do it?  Well I also signed up with the intention that this was going to be a PR for me.  My fastest 5k race was in January 2009, 10 years ago.  I was 10 years younger and 20 lbs lighter and had trained for a couple of months.  6 months was plenty of time to get ready to make this 5k a Personal Best.  Sometimes the greatest intentions don’t always work out…..

I did not prepare for this race other than a couple of walks here and there and a 5k in November that told me I was REALLY out of shape…. But I still had time.

Everything was pretty much stacked against me for yesterday’s She Power 5k… no training, extra weight, my husband wouldn’t be able to be beside me and encourage and motivate me along the way…. Yes, things were stacked against me.  And thoughts did enter my mind that maybe I would just walk and set a goal for next year, putting off my goal for a future date.  The problem with that is that the future date usually doesn’t arrive.

Yes, circumstances, lack of preparedness and my thoughts were threatening to keep me from this 5k, until….

My Circle of Inspiration.

We all have a Circle of Inspiration, made up of friends, family, co-workers, strangers we meet or see on TV or read about, individuals who walk into our lives for a moment and so many more.  Many individuals form our circle, inspiring us along the way.  And we find inspiration and give inspiration within this circle.  The great thing about a circle is it has no end; the inspiration is all around us.  What a wondrous thing to be able to find inspiration in so many ways, from so many different individuals.

I have a wonderful and wide-spread Circle of Inspiration I can draw from.  And it is in this circle that I find the strength to fight on, to work harder, to keep going when all I want to do is quit.  Whether it is about just getting through my day, getting out of bed, stepping outside my comfort zone, continuing my journey of health, facing hard things in life or crossing a finish line when I don’t think I can, inspiration is there.  My husband, my sons, my daughter-in-law, my extended family, my friends, the strangers I have met and so many others inspire me to just do it, to take the leap and fly!

20190127_073024 copySo, with everything against me, what made the difference for me yesterday morning was these ladies, part of my Circle of Inspiration.  Some had done a 5k before and for some of them this was their first.  And they inspired me on my journey.

When I worked as a WW Coach (formerly known as a Weight Watcher Leader) I had the privilege of getting to know many individuals who inspired me every day, every week.  These women met in meetings I led.  And I was blessed these past couple of years to have been a part of their journey.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, celebrated with them, and commiserated with them.  And I have had the privilege of getting to know their individual stories.

Each of these women came to this race yesterday for their own reasons and with their own goals, inspiring each other along the way.  That Circle of Inspiration.  Some struggled with physical limitations, and some faced mindset challenges, yet each of them was willing to set aside the challenges that could have kept them from walking this 5k and instead they chose to step outside their comfort zones.  I have often said that stepping outside that comfort zone is where our greatest growth happens, and these ladies were proving that to be true.  Having the privilege of knowing their personal stories gave me the strength to show up and to cross that start line.  And they gave me the courage to push myself beyond what was comfortable so that I could finish strong.

We gathered before the race and lined up at the start together.  When it was time to go, we went at our own paces.  Each of us had our own personal goal we wanted to reach.  And that was scary for some of us, maybe for all of us.  But because of this Circle of Inspiration, because of the support we found in each other, we were able to push forward.  One-step-at-a-time, literally!

I was inspired by all of them, whether it was their first race or one of many…. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and excitement at completing a race.  I was inspired by their determination to push past the physical barriers that had kept them from even 20190128_152234_hdr copydreaming of doing a 5k race, those physical barriers that at one time kept them from even walking around a block, let alone 3.1 miles.  I was inspired by how they changed a mindset from “I can’t” to “I think I can” to “Yes! I can”.  I was inspired by the support and encouragement they showed each other.  I was inspired by those who conquered their fear and were willing to do this race with little preparation. I was inspired by seeing the empowerment that comes from believing in oneself.  I was inspired by the resolve to finish faster than the last one.  I was inspired by their faces, the joy, the pride after finishing this race. I was inspired by the courage shown to finish a race despite a fall and injury, and not just finish it, but finish strong, something I am not sure I could have done.

To say that these ladies inspire me is an understatement.  Each one of them is an inspiration and I am so very blessed to know them and be encouraged by them!

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Congratulations, my friends! You thought you could and you did!

We all finished this race yesterday morning, proud of each other and proud of ourselves.  We each met or exceeded our personal goals.  And yes, we are ready to do it again!

I know that without these ladies I would have still done this race, but I am not sure how hard I would have pushed myself without my Circle of Inspiration, those who inspire me every day in my life and these ladies who gave me the strength and courage to push myself faster and to see what I was capable of.

I didn’t finish with a PR, but I finished faster than the She Power 5k 1 year ago and faster than the 5k I did in November.  I walked and I ran, knowing these ladies were somewhere amid the sea of women and they were pushing themselves too.

I was just 3 ½ minutes slower than my fastest race 10 years ago……imagine what I can do with a little inspiration, a little training, and being a little healthier….  Next year will be my year, I have no doubt!

With a vast and far reaching Circle of Inspiration, WE CAN…. I CAN …do anything!!

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My Sweet Friend

I have really been struggling to find my words this past week…..

I lost an old friend.

On Nov 12th my friend went missing. All of her friends rallied together, shared information and tried to locate her in the only way we could from distances far away.

You see, my friend had moved from Washington to Illinois over a year ago with her boyfriend of over a decade. And she was lonely. She didn’t have friends or family in Illinois…..

And things did not go well.

My friend has struggled since I have known her with bouts of depression…..and being isolated, away from all who loved her…..in physical pain, daily……and in a relationship that was….well, let’s just say that the relationship fueled her depression….all of this led to the moment that broke so many hearts…..

The thing is, I did not realize just how bad things were for her…or how depressed she had become because I was lost these past two years in my own storm, dealing with my family situation and my son’s addiction and mental health issues……so I didn’t know…….

This was a dear friend of mine from high school.

We spent a lot of time together…..she spent the night at my house many times and we always had a great time. When she was at my house we were up late, long nights talking, laughing and enjoying our friendship. We stayed up late baking cookies and then in the middle of the night our craving for cheeze pleezers and strawberry Shasta would strike, and off we would go, walking to 7-11 to get some…..mostly at midnight and once at 2am. As long as the two of us were together we were safe!

We spent a lot of time at her house in the summer of 1982….helping her dad to haul hay. My friend lived on a small dairy farm and the summer/fall meant hauling hay….loading the truck and unloading in the barn. We had fun doing it, even though it was exhausting work. We sang country songs and then rode on top of the hay in the big hay truck after hours hard work……those days were amazing and our friendship became stronger.

We went to camp together in the summer…..spent a lot of time in Rainbow girls…..went on double dates…..and so much more. Life with my friend was fun and crazy…..she made me laugh, made me cry, shared my joys and pains, and sometimes drove me nuts.

In the fall of 1982 my dad made it unsafe for me to live at home any longer and my friend and her mother offered me a home to live in so I could finish high school…..I shared my friends room with her and we became inseparable. She was with me, skipping school, when I met my future husband. We laughed, cried, shared secrets and our dreams. She was a sister to me.

I saw it back then, though I didn’t really talk about it with anyone…..her depression. There were times when she would be depressed and we would spend hours talking….or rather her talking and me listening and I would do everything I could to help her.

Through the years we stayed close. We both got married and then we each had children. She stayed in the same town and I moved away with my husband, going wherever the Air Force sent us. We would go long periods of time without seeing each other, but then I would go home to visit and she and I would get together and it was as if no time had gone by….we always picked up where we left off. We wrote a lot of long letters in those days before email and internet and paid for high long distance phone calls. But they were worth it. Friends staying connected.

And then her life changed dramatically over a decade ago and our phone conversations were less often, but we still wrote letters and then she climbed onboard with facebook and we would message each other to stay in touch.

It has been 10 years since I last saw my friend in person….we met for breakfast on one of my trips home……just the two of us. And we talked for hours. I could see that she was struggling, but she was surrounded by friends and family so I knew she wasn’t alone.

And then the past two years things took a turn for me and I stepped back from my friends, my family needed me and emotionally I couldn’t handle anything else.  We still messaged, but we didn’t talk……

Then over a year ago she moved away from her family and her friends, to another state with only her boyfriend for support…..and as the year passed she became more isolated, her depression growing…fueled by loneliness and…..so much more.

And now she is gone.

Gone.

I will never again have a chance to talk with her, to hear her laugh…….I didn’t know. I wish I had.  I wish I had called her.  I wish I had taken the time to listen.  I wish I had known.

And now she is gone. I am still in shock. I am hurting. I feel guilty.

Eight days after my friend went missing she was found. She had taken her own life.

Her sister called me to tell me…..

I am left with so many questions….WHY?  Why, my dear friend?

I know she was alone, having left her support network back in Washington when she moved. And now I know now just how bad things had gotten for her in that new state…….with no one to help her, to seek help for her, to love her and support her……

Why? Depression strikes so many and yet we still struggle to understand and talk about it. When are we going to change that? When is mental health going to be as important as physical health? When will the medical industry treat mental illnesses the way they treat physical illnesses…..

The image in my mind of my friend, alone…….it will never leave me. And I am left with the questions of why, and also the “what if”….what if I had called…..what if I had known…..what if…… and the “if only”.  I will never know the answers.

…..and I am left with guilt and heartbreak.

My dear, sweet friend is gone. And I realize that no matter what is going on in my life I need to make sure I keep in contact with my friends and family, that I let them know just how much they mean to me, that I never again miss the signs and never again lose someone I love to suicide.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression and expressing thoughts of suicide, please reach out, call the National Suicide Awareness Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Today, hug your loved ones a little tighter….tell them how you feel……don’t waste another minute or day. Life is all too short and we never know when it is our last moment on earth or that of our loved ones.

I wish I had one more day with you, my sweet friend….you drove me nuts at times, you made me laugh, you listened when I needed a friend, and I wish I could tell you, just one more time, how much I love you!

I miss you my sweet friend! I hope you have found peace……